Why wearable technology will transform the event industry

The future looks bright for wearable technology according to many studies, the latest of which is Cisco’s Visual Network Index and predicts an increase to 58 million devices in 2015 and even 177 million by 2018.  That looks pretty impressive and it actually is considering that such a market would be worth approximately 30 billion US dollars.  Yet, in comparison to (say) the global smartphone market, it’s peanuts.  At  an estimated bying rate of 2,3 billion devices a year, the smartphone market accounts for roughly 20 devices per smart wearable device.

While all these statistics and contradictory trend reports, may give the impression that wearables are not (yet) a reality, I would argue that these numbers only mean tough business for those entering in this market.  Meaning that margins will be low from the start, with the exception of some more ‘premium’ products from vendors like Apple, and most importantly set for a race down the bottom.  On top, these wearables work together with a smartphone and are pretty useless without one.  This means that the wearables themselves don’t account for much network traffic, reducing to zero the incentive for telco’s to develop device subsidies plans, like they did so keenly for smartphones.  But that’s their problem not yours as an event organizer.

So, wearable devices are not going to impact the event industry for a lack of adoption?  On the contrary, they will and already have if you think about it.


Every event attendee has at some stage worn a RFID or NFC bracelet in the past years when going to an event.  For access control, or for paying drinks or food, or for sharing content on social media.  Especially the concerts and festivals industry has adpoted bracelets a couple of years ago.  Identifying the potential advantages of selling more, worrying less about cash distribution and theft, checking entrances better, managing crowds in a more secure manner.

But where wearing a bracelet on a concert is pretty standard, you won’t see it on a conference or trade show.  And that’s because the audience won’t accept that.  No need to discuss reasons or measures to circumvent that, the fact that in the future your smart wearable device will be able to take over those functions easily solves this puzzle.  Smart watches will become the RFID-NFC bracelet in the next months and years.

Google Glass

Google’s entry in the market of wearables is and has been since the start one of the most eye-catching ones (I liked the pun).  Not always positively because it’s so visible and packed with cool features, but also because it’s a little bit scary, or at least swiftly categorized as a danger to privacy by so-called experts.  Only a couple of months after Glass’ announcement it  is already declared dead, sometimes by people that also tried to bury Apple’s iPad and iPhone or the Android operating system immediately after their introduction.

While I understand the concerns and honestly value the importance and need of privacy, I think Google Glass can be a game changer for events, congresses, trade shows and basically any location where lot’s of people meet each other and engage with new and exciting content.  Google Glass may not become the hyped, ubiquitous tool that Google wants it to become for their business, but it sure has a lot of potential to offer as a business and marketing tool.googleglass

Think about how much simpler it would be to keep your smartphone in your pocket while stroling down the isles of a trade show, not forced to look at your screen all the time, missing out on interesting products and people.  Think about not having to grab for your phone to check messages and reminders for your next appointment on the show or speakers session to attend.  Could that be the reason why today mobile event apps or not all that much used by attendees ?  I honestly think so.

Virtual reality

riftNo, I really can’t imagine myself walking around with an Occulus Rift on my head, but imagine being able to admire, on a booth, in 3D, the latest model of some multi-million dollar machine that was just too expensive to fysically move to the event venue.  Can you smell the (social) media coverage that would generate for the event and the exhibitor ? I can.


The chances of meeting tens of interesting people, existing contacts or new partners, on an event are high, certainly higher than on any other average day.  How convenient would it be to attendees to use their smart watch or glasses to connect, to exchange personal information, to get a reminder of a planned meeting and at the same time get some background information on the person your meeting with.  Get his interests, hobbies, carreer at his current company, experience,…

The mobile event app is created to increase convenience and make a better customer experience during an attendee’s stay at an event.  But it virtually requires the poor man or woman to glue a smartphone on your face, which is not very convenient when walking.  Wearable technology will just reveal the true added value of event apps and event technology and as a side efffect increase the number of created interactions.  Which, in my book, is exactly what conferences or trade shows are all about : creating interactions and leads.

More advantages or use cases of wearable technology for events ?  Or recent experiences with events using wearables, just post a comment.

Why you want to invest now in event technology ?

The approaching dedicated show Event Tech Live 2014 next week, but also the overall desire and anticipation to use and integrate technology in almost every aspect of our daily lives, causes a spike in interest and searches for event technology.  And rightfully so, I may add.  Today many, if not virtually every big and smaller trade show or conference boasts a mobile app, online registration, an online blog and social media interaction.  But every often I see isolated efforts not demonstrating a valid online strategy nor tight integration of these supporting tools.  Many organizers will invest in technology to keep up with the competition or just because – they feel or think – the audience expects that.  But you shouldn’t invest because it’s a buzz.  Only if you’re convinced technology can have a positive impact on your event.  I’m pretty sure it will. Why ?

1. Strategy first

While the practice of experimenting with technology isn’t bad – as I emphasize later in this article – you musn’t confuse an experiment with a best practice or final setup.  The goal must always be structural, well-defined and with tangible results and positive outcome in mind.  So you want to have a clear strategy including a list of goals and the appropriate tactics – read technology – to achieve that goal.  Look at all available event tech on the market, evaluate if and how it can help you achieve your strategy and goals.  And foremost look at how each individual technology effort can be enhanced by adding more or integrating with other pieces of technology.  Keep an eye on efficiency, costs and measure the results.

Of course Rome wasn’t build in a day and you can start small and isolated but don’t settle for that.

TIP : also look at technnology that’s not – or not yet – typically adapted to the event industry’s needs but holds promise to achieve your goals.  Typically retail technology (in Dutch) can be usefull in event environments.

2. Data is the ultimate proof360-customer-view

The real bonus of using event technology is the data it provides.  It has the potential to stop you from having to guess.  About what your audience wants, about how exhibitors performed, about the effect of your event, about activity levels, about the return of your efforts.  Actually about virtually everything you always wanted to track and then use to improve your event and demonstrate the value it holds.

3. Increase productivity

Good event technology boosts the productivity of your audience.  Whether it’s rapidly finding your way to the next exhibitor you wanted to pay a visit, or sifting through the lectures at a conference looking for topics of your interest, or looking for interesting other visitors to meet with.

But it also helps you to become more productive and improve your event’s value.  Knowing exactly how many people attented a demo and how many questions were asked and answered after a lecture, helps you identify valuable topics and speakers for your next edition.  Good social media analytics will point you to the community thought leaders, helping you Tweet: Great social media analytics will point you to the community thought leaders, helping you increase your reach. #eventtech #adekspoincrease your reach and maybe attracting the guru for a workshop at your next event.

Good event technology increases the likelihood of succesful interaction between people, networking and connecting the right business opportunities.  Without technology, organizing an event is like fishing with a line and hook and ultimate patience.  Great as an outdoor leisure but not for providing sustainable living.  As an organizer you went through an enormous pile of work and effort to realize the event and then you leave it up to pure serendepity for the right people to meet each other.  With just a little technological help you can do so much better and more rewarding.

4. Increase engagement

A mobile app, a Tweetwall, a Pinterest photo contest, a website, a voting system, … All of that will support your efforts to engage with your customers in a dialogue.  But the dialogue mustn’t start at the entrance and stop at the exit of the event’s venue.  The conversation has to be continuous.  By all means the intensity must be raised during the event by sharing valuable information with your audience.  But before and after the show you also have interesting things to share, or at least you must have.  Interest spans are decreasing which means you have a harder time if you have to reintroduce yourself and fight for attention from scratch, every time a couple of months before the event’s opening date.

This requires proven knowledge of your audiences – fact based, not hunches – stored in integrated software solutions, giving you a 360° overview of every single participant in your events.

5. Demand

I know I said in the beginning of this article that introducing event tech because people want it, is not a good reason to start with.  But don’t underestimate the power of your audience.  “Power to the people” is an increasing reality, and not only in the virtual world.  This means not having a highly appreciated piece of technology on your event can be more harmful than having it in a way that’s not optimal.  You must however make sure the experience is valuable from the beginning and be clear about the ultimate goal.  Ask for features users want to see in the future and communicate well about your plans for the future with this technology tool.

6. Experiment

Try new stuff !  Don’t be afraid of technology.  People attending your events aren’t.  More and more events will be attended by people between 25 and 40 years old.  Those are manifest 24/7 users of technology.  Try something new, evaluate well and then drop it or use it differently, more wisely to achieve your overall strategy.  Or to provide objective answers to the questions that you want to see answered.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Your specialty is organizing an event and managing a community, not knowing exactly how technology can help with those tasks.  So ask for professional help when developing a strategy or searching for effective technology.

It’s all connected. Just like any event’s goal is to connect more people and ideas together, the goal for your arsenal of technological features should be to connect them and gain insights and information helping you to become a better organizer who knows what people want to get out of your events.

7 things app statistics don’t mean for event apps ?

Comscore’s yearly statistical report on app downloads and usage, which arrived 2 weeks ago, can be – and probably was -interpreted as bad news.  In general numbers for downloads and usage per device are dropping.  The overall graph line is still on the rise, but only thanks to a still growing number of devices.  The relative growth rate is decreasing.

The full Comscore report can be downloaded here.

Being an event organizer or app provider for events, one could draw the wrong conclusions from those numbers and downplay or ignore the effectiveness of implementating a mobile app.  Knowing the industry a little, after 20 years of experience, and considering the focus on costs, I would say these premature negative conclusions were drawn in many boardrooms or marketing departments.  I would however argue the opposite, and here’s why.

1. General statistics over all categoriescomscore_f67903e623b4c046fa884cc93ac053fc

The Comscore report, although extensive and elaborate, doesn’t focus on the event app category, simply for it being absent as a seperate category in any of the mobile app stores.  Overall the app market may be stagnating, or to be more precise, not growing anymore at the same pace, that doesn’t mean all app categories behave in the same way.

In analogy, in a declining economy viewed on a macro-scale, some industries are growing rapidly.

On top the report only looks at the US market.  Yes, by far the biggest market but maybe not entirely comparable to the geographical target of your event in terms of mobile beheavior.

2. You’re special

Even if the event apps category would be highlighted seperately and proving to decline – hypothetical, still your app could be doing great.  You just have to provide a really useful, well promoted app that enhances the user experience of your attendees.  In analogy, in a difficult and suffering automobile market, some car makers are doing great.

Only one healthy reflex can help you draw the right conclusions : measure the download and use of your event app yourself.  And give it some time to have valuable, objective numbers to go by.  Prevent yourself from drawing any conclusions after one or two editions of your event.

3. A great mobile marketing strategy

Any app has to have a purpose, and so does an event app.  This purpose has to fit into the overall marketing strategy, which enhances the mobile and social promotion of your event.  Commonly used tactics for this purpose are social media integration, coupons, treasure hunts,…  Let’s face it : you need to have a mobile marketing strategy.

But the purpose of the app should also be functional.  The app must help your attendees with the primary problem they face when they enter your event : searching the information, places, products and people they want to find !

Consider how an app fits in your marketing strategy in terms of extra visibility opportunities a mobile app presents to your exhibitors and partners and how that can generate new revenue for you as an organizer.

4. The best search tool

An event app is the interactive and modern form of a show catalogue.  Gone should be the days that every visitor carries a 250+ pages book around the fair grounds for a couple of hours, going back and forth flipping pages to search what he/she was looking for – if ever found.

Your app should be the Google for your event.  Users must have access to all information available on your event.  Only the relevant information on site.  Don’t bother putting the complete description of your event in the app – yes I know examples that do.  People using your app will know which show they’re visiting, why they should visit and what they can see at the show.

Allow them to search for exhibitors, find a specific stand, search for certain products or product categories, search for lectures and seminars, speakers, demos,…  Put the entire list of attendees in your app, allowing visitors to meet each other.

In the best of cases your app was downloaded before the event, meaning there’s opportunity to give special offers and tickets through the app, exhibitor promotions, reminders and navigation from within the app.

5. Make it smart and interactive

Don’t build an app that waits for a user to search for the next piece of information he/she’s interested in.  Have the app make suggestions to the user automatically, based on what was searched for previously.  Use reminders, messages and pop-ups, only when allowed by the user, and when useful.  I’m sure an attendee having looked up 3 individual exhibitors that belong to a certain product category, wouldn’t mind getting asked the question if he/she wants to see all other exhibitors in the same category.  Would you ?

6. Embed into the online customer experience

Use your event’s mobile app as a logical extension of your event’s website. Allow the online purchased entrance ticket to be transferred to your mobile app, instead of routinely sending it to the buyers e-mail address.  Also a good way to promote the use of your app.  Give the app user seperate access to the list of preferred or favorite exhibitors he/she prepared on the event website.  Flag these exhibitors in the global exhibitor list displayed in your mobile app.

7. Audience quality

Let’s assume that the Comscore numbers are also valid for event apps.  Let’s assume the reluctance to isntall yet another app is high amongst your potential visitors or attendees and only a small percentage has actually downloaded – let alone used – your app.  I would argue that this small group of attendees is a very valuable, both to you and to your exhibitors or partners.  They’ve shown above average interest in your event and have opened up to enhanced and more meaningful engagement with your event.  They’re most probably – especially if your app is designed for efficient use – well prepared visitors, getting more out of their time spend at your event.  These are the visitors or attendees your exhibitors or partners have been waiting for.  The likelihood of deals made with this type of visitors, or the quality of leads for them, is much higher.

That’s why I recommend you – in spite of seemingly disappointing numbers and statistics – to build a mobile app and do the analysis yourself, together with your partners, exhibitors and visitors.  Focus on what’s important for them in terms of reasons to use the app.  Build in the desired functionality and promote those to your audience.  Monitor the usage in meticulous detail.  You’ll see the numbers rising, in contradiction to the deceptive overall trend.

A few other tips on mobile event apps, can be found in this article from a fellow blogger.

Do you have other reasons why you would still provide an app for your next event ?  Just post a comment.

Neem een voorbeeld aan de retail – deel 2

In het vorige deel zagen we al welke vergelijkingen getrokken kunnen worden tussen retail en de wereld van (vak)beurzen.  In dit deel gaan we op zoek naar de toekomst van offline, voor de “brick-and-mortar” winkel en trekken dat door op event-venues en (vak)beurzen.

De winkel

Zeggen of schrijven dat de winkel dood is lijkt me een geweldige overdrijving.  Er is wel duidelijk sprake van een transformatie, maar zeker niet het einde.  Je zou kunnen doemdenken en stellen dat er binnenkort alleen nog maar e-commerce zal zijn en dat fysieke winkels dood zijn, maar dat soort toekomst zie ik niet, en ik denk dat ook consumenten dat niet willen.  Het is mijn overtuiging dat mensen graag winkelen en graag verrast worden door een onverwachte vondst in een winkel.  Shopping of winkelen draait net zo veel om entertainment en betrokkenheid als om noodzakelijkheid en nut.


intelligent touch-screen met pasfunctie

De onmiskenbare trend is dat winkels net zo veel distributie- en fulfillment-centra worden als totaal-concepten voor een onvergetelijk shoppinggevoel.  Winkels en shoppingcentra zullen daarbij hoog-technologisch uitgerust worden.  Vandaag moet de oppervlakte van een winkel een aantrekkingskracht hebben om mensen door de deur te lokken, de winkelrekken moeten constant goed gevuld zijn en de dienstverlening moet op een hoog niveau staan.  Dat is een zeer duur en inefficiënt model.

Invloed van e-commerce

Wat e-commerce heeft aangetoond is dat, zeker voor de goedkopere producten, een just-in-time model veel gezonder is.  Ik geloof dat hier een patroon in schuilt voor de evolutie van de winkel.  Een enorme toename van in-store technologie die toelaat om alle producten te zien en passen, eventueel virtueel dankzij geconnecteerde schermen in spiegels en pashokjes, maar met een uitgestelde levering.

Dit zal invloed hebben op het gebruik van dure real estate dankzij kleinere shops, kleinere showrooms in combinatie met magazijnen en lokale(re) distributiecentra op minder dure locaties buiten de stadcentra die een soort lokale economie creëren.  Dit vraagt andere transportmodi en infrastructuur.

Dit heeft ook invloed op het soort ervaring dat je wil voor je klanten in de winkel.  Het engagement moet sterker opgebouwd worden en meer persoonlijk om de stap tot aankoop te vereenvoudigen en te concretiseren on-the-spot.  Dat vraagt bijvoorbeeld makkelijkere en mobiele betaalmiddelen, gepersonaliseerde boodschappen op de smartphone of in-store schermen, free-wifi, digitale loyalty programma’s,…

Technolgie slim gebruiken

RFID-badgeDie slimme inzet van technologie zie je wereldwijd als paddenstoelen uit de grond schieten.  Vele merken en shopping malls experimenteren met mobiele toepassingen, slimme spiegels, mobile payment en dergelijke meer.  Bovendien zetten shopping malls steeds meer track&trace technologie gecombineerd met digital signage in om mensenstromen te meten en te sturen.  Deze warenhuizen weten dat ze enkel zo hun nut en kostenstructuur kunnen verantwoorden aan de merken die dure ruimte bij hen huren. En dat ze bovendien op die manier mensen kunnen binden en voor terugkerende bezoekers kunnen zorgen.


waar komen mijn bezoekers het vaakst ?

De track&trace gebeurt op allerlei verschillende, zichtbare en soms listig verborgen, manieren zoals : via het kassa-systeem, via de klantenkaart met ingebouwde RFID-chip, via de mobiele app, via intelligente camera’s met gezichtsherkenning, via vragenlijsten en onderzoeken, via de wifi of het signaal van de mobiele telefoons van bezoekers, via touch-screens en zo meer.  Bovendien worden al die middelen ook gebruikt om zoveel mogelijk gegevens te verzamelen over de bezoeker en klant.

Als de opdracht om het eigen bestaansrecht te bewijzen en de bezoeker zo goed mogelijk te kennen niet ook geldt voor event-venues en -organisatoren, dan heb ik niets geleerd in 20 jaar in de (vak)beursbranche.  En als de inzet van technologie in de retail werkt om die missie te volbrengen, dan moet voor mijn industrie hetzelfde kunnen.


Een criticus of zwartkijker zou natuurlijk de opkomst van bepaalde technologie als een bedreiging kunnen bekijken van de noodzaak aan real estate, standruimte, van exposanten op (vak)beurzen.  Meer technolgie die toelaat om dingen in near-real-life te visualiseren, zal onvermijdelijk leiden tot minder noodzaak aan ruimte om die dingen fysiek te tonen.  Dat is evident, maar ik weet zeker dat de druk op dure standruimte er zonder die technologie ook zal zijn en eigenlijk vandaag al is.  Bovendien zal dit soort technologie niet verdwijnen omdat we dat zo graag willen.  Ik zou vandaag de mogelijkheden ervan omarmen om te kunnen experimenteren met andere vormen van events die je anders in de toekomst zal mislopen.

Door de inzet van heldere en doeltreffende track&trace technolgie zul je bovendien het nut en de efficiëntie van je event als lead generator veel beter kunnen aantonen, wat meer dan waarschijnlijk de levensduur van je event veel meer kan verlengen dan dat het bovenstaande er een bedreiging van kan zijn.

The ideal trade show visitor

To keep in touch with my English readers, after 3 Dutch posts – I know time goes by fast – at last another article in your language.  To recap the previous posts, and as an introduction to this one, I wrote about the average event visitor of today and the coming years and what they expect from events and trade shows.  How do you cater for happy Generation X’ers and Y’ers or Millenials on your events ?  Topics passed like how content is king and especially Millenials like to have an impact on the actual content and want conferences and workshops to be extremely interactive thanks to the use of modern technology.  Or how Generation X wants to get special prices at events and cares for information delivered by e-mail.  Or how Generation X wants a personalized tour guiding them along the must-see exhibitors to avoid wasting valuable time.  Now that we know who your event’s attendees are, or will be in the near future, and what they want, I want to take you today on a intellectual challenge to determine the answer to this question : “What’s a great visitor ?”.

Ask the right question

I recently did a consulting project on visitor statistics and how certain technology tools can help you to get more statistics.  Of course, being a consultant, I get to ask difficult questions and so my primary one was : “What information do you want to retrieve from the statistics that can drive your decision taking process?”.  The ultimate answer is, and I honestly think it always should be : “Help determine and improve the number of good, quality leads we as an organizer deliver to our exhibitors and partners”.  Because this, in the end, is the raison d’être of any event.

A good visitor or lead obviously is in part an objective measure but also a subjective interpretation.  And when organizing a show there’s different stakeholders involved which will all have different criteria, both objective and subjective to determine the (potential) value of a visitor.  The venue hosting the show will care about spend in the bistro, parking, press shop, …  The organizer will focus on dwelling time, activity level, social media engagement,…

Different stakeholders

In this consulting project we identified 5 direct stakeholders and 1 indirect stakeholder group.  The major direct stakeholder in trade shows of course is the group of exhibitors.  In most cases this group represents the biggest source of revenue and thus the group to deliver ROI to.  This ROI is measured in the number of good leads they get to meet on their booth.

Leads, leads, leads

An interesting lead, we concluded, for an exhibitor would be someone interested in buying one or more of the exhibitor’s products or services, who has the buying financial power, the buying decision power, the intention to make the purchase over a short amount of time, is located in an area the exhibitor covers, with whom the exhibitor already established some sort of relationship (online or offline).  Another interesting visitor to any exhibitor is a (very) good client in terms of relationship duration and value.  Yes, I know, this assumption is based on the idea that the exhibitor’s participation objectives are about sales, but hey, most of the time they are.  And even if direct sales on the show, is not the priority and this exhibitor wants to create brand awareness or launches a new product, even then many of the aforementioned criteria would still hold up.

Not one tool provides all answers

After a quick overview, I found that a set of different tools and the statistics those could produce, together can give you a decent answer to the big question “how many quality leads did we produce ?”.  These tools would be things like, your attendee registration survey, satisfaction surveys, CRM, lead retrieval tool, cash desks,…

Of course you have to tweak the content, usage and the numbers you get out of the different tools involved, in function of the question you’re trying to answer.  But don’t tweak to produce exactly the outcome you had in mind.  The result must reflect the truth, how inconvenient it may be to you as an organizer.  At least then you’ll draw the right conclusions and make the appropriate decisions and changes.

The advantage of answering this crucial question yourself, and not asking it directly to your exhibitors, as most organizers do in their after-show survey, should be that you can prove, more accurately and reliably, your product’s value based on numbers you already had (partially).  This will help you improve sales based on facts.  Look at it from the potential exhibitor’s perspective.  You would never buy e.g. a smartphone based on this user feedback or review : “I bought it because 350 people indicated they might buy it again.”  You would buy based on this review : “I bought it because it has excellent price/quality balance and a stunning full-HD 4″ screen.”  However, when it comes to shows, the former review is more used in prospection and sales than the latter.  A much better pitch would be : “350 exhibitors last year met on average 34 leads a day, which they scored 8,6/10 for quality.  And in your specific industry it was 42 leads a day”.

Success = statistics and data

The key to success in events is statistical data delivering information and knowledge leading to better business decisions and more personalized and focused marketing messages.

BIG DATA in events

Ever increasing scores of companies are developing ways of – or are already longtime active in – offering their products and services online.  Companies are investing growing amounts of time and resources to online marketing strategies and campaigns to leverage customer loyalty and engagement in order to keep ahead of the competition.  Organizers of meetings and events are reluctantly slow adapting to the same practices.

One of the most important steps towards ultimate customer loyalty is in-depth, metrics based customer segmentation.  Going online with your company implies a larger, more international and heterogeneous customer base and thus more data.  But even for your real life event offer, you will need to know your customer better in the future, just to retain his/her attention and desire to participate.

Facing an explosion of available and collectible data on each individual customer, achieving solid segmentation becomes an even more challenging task.  So the question emerges, is big data worthwhile ?

Bit size data segments

To keep big data manageable, it’s considered to be good practice to breakdown the data.  Most client data collected online can be grouped in these categories :

  • contextual data : interests (identified and profiled), web pages visited, visited sponsors/exhibitors, …
  • attitudinal data : number of interactions, number of clicked ads or banners, number of visited pages,…
  • behavioral data : number of recurrent visits to your site, average visit duration, type of product bought,…
  • demographic data : age, sex, address, Facebook or Twitter id,…
  • loyalty data : number of complaints, number of recurring event visits, engagement score,…
  • value data : average amount spent on products, score for expected profitability,…
  • technical data : used operating system, used browser, Flash version,…
  • referral data : referral page, used search words,…

Breaking down the data into these categories has proven very effective to setting and achieving marketing goals.  Academic research has revealed that data segmentation supports the most important online marketing goals, such as increasing up- and cross-selling numbers, attracting new clients and improving churn rates.  The categories of attitudinal and behavioral data are well suited for supporting almost every goal, whereas demographic data is less effective, because of privacy restrictions prohibiting massive online collection of this type of data.  On top of that, although it’s usually the type of data that’s used when segmenting for events, it’s totally irrelevant towards target groups’ interests.

If after reading this part, you’re still wondering what big data is and how it distinguishes from regular data, then read my previous blog post (in Dutch).

Big data challenges

Companies are feeling overwhelmed with massive amounts of data and information.  So how do you manage that ?  Before this explosion occurred, companies were faced with less amounts of data and mostly structured, primarily disclosed in such applications as ERP (Entreprise Resource Planning) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  Today, together with the breakthrough of internet based platforms, not only the size of databases has increased tremendously, but also the complexity of the information.  Data can nowadays be stored in structured or unstructured ways, in video, audio and pictures, not just in text.  Managing this and turning it into valuable insights, requires new work methods.

Big data and traditional data not only vary in volume, structure and transaction speed, but also require new tools and technologies.  Today many data management techniques are used in big data that have a common background from the techniques used in traditional data : classification, clustering, regression, time series analysis and A/B testing, to name a few.  But Big Data demands new techniques that empower companies to store, process and analyse vast amounts of unstructured data originating from different sources in various types and sizes.  Big data also requires new and improved visualization methods and tools.  Ways to display all that collected data that are comprehensive for humans, so they can actually use it to make business decisions.

Is big data a joy or a burden ?

It’s a joy if you find the appropriate way to derive knowledge from the data.  Segmenting client data plays an important role in this game.  It will substantially contribute to making better and semi-automated decisions on marketing strategies and tactics to increase the customer engagement.

Start planning for big data today if you’re in the event industry.  There’s no way it will not impact your business in the future.  Big data is directly linked to the way your future customers behave today.  Look for my next blog post in which I will try to depict your John Doe customer of 2015.

Don’t take BIG DATA lightly or as a pure IT-problem and get expert help.


The 5 most important pieces of visitor intelligence for your event

Participating in an event or trade show, for exhibitors is a part of their marketing mix, just like buying ads in on- and offline media or doing social media campaigns.  While most event organizers are convinced that F2F (face-to-face) communication is important, and I don’t disagree on that, it mustn’t be the only valid reason for a company to participate.  The event must deliver ROI or ROE : Return on Event.

One of the analytic metrics most used by exhibitors to judge the ROI is the cost per lead analysis.  Typically a cost factor which is considered to be low, by event organizers.

There is however a wide gap between the assumed cost per lead, when you ask organizers, compared to what you get

Average cost per lead

Average cost per lead

if you ask exhibitors. This can be explained because of a lack of measurability, especially considering the other channels mentioned in this comparison.  Any of the better scoring channels in terms of cost per lead, will typically offer a dashboard on the results of your investments, even many of the technologies used in these channels that are free of charge.  And that’s all it takes to get a better subjective score.  I deliberately say subjective because I’m convinced that for all channels alike, it can be quite difficult to exactly calculate your ROI.  Since you’re using multiple channels at a time there’s sometimes no way you can tell which channel to directly connect to a sales.  On top I believe many organizers are still comparing to rogue outbound sales prospecting, when they estimate the cost per lead of event participation.  But still perception is everything, and as the graphic demonstrates, it’s not favorable to trade shows.

My believe is the event-industry will have to step up and deliver more and better metrics to their exhibitors in order to help them make a more objective ROI analysis and maintain or improve the trade show’s ranking in terms of cost-to-lead compared to other channels.

So what are the most important metrics to collect and share with your exhibitors ?

1. Gross attendance figures

Not just the total amount of visitors, but also numbers per day, per hour, a comparison with previous editions, totals per hall, totals per visitor profile including interests, age, position.  Highlight the specifics that vary from the universe statistics.  One could be that you attract a lot more big company reps than the average size of companies in the database universe.  That’s a highlight you must emphasize since it means you had really interesting potential at your show.

2. Dwelling time

Tell your exhibitors, sponsors, how long people stayed on the show. Again detailed per visitor profile.  It will give them an idea of how much opportunity they had to meet the interesting people.

3. Heat map

Use whatever technology you want to track where attendees went on your event.  Wifi, bluetooth, GSM-signal, GPS,… Whatever fits your type of event and location.  It helps you as an organizer to show again the conversion potential every exhibitor had.  On site and real-time it allows you to manage the crowd and spread it more evenly over the halls or specifically pointed in time towards that great demo you planned or the expert speaker you invited.

Afterwards it could also be one of the aspects you take into account for a new pricing policy.

4. Stand visit numbers

Encourage your exhibitors, sponsor, partners to digitally track visitors on their booths.  Scanning the visitor badge allows them to keep a digital track of “who visited me” and allows swift and accurate lead follow-up.  It should also give you as an organizer individual numbers on where people went.  The great solutions on the market provide a myriad of solutions from dedicated scanning hardware to mobile device app to scan visitors and access the scanned data real-time on site and off-site in the offices to be used in marketing actions.

A workshop or seminar area is also a stand and you owe it to your valued speakers to provide them details on who attended.  Each attendee is an interesting contact for the speaker.  Furthermore it provides you information on your conversion success from passers-by to attendees in the room, thanks to a combination with the aforementioned heat map.

A non-exhaustive list of available lead tracking solutions can be found on the blog of Michael Heipel.

5. Buying power

Provide figures on your attendee’s buying intentions in terms of timing, investment size and their buying decision power.  It demonstrates the value of the average lead you provided to your exhibitors.  Derived from the exhibitor/partner survey you could ask for average spent on the contracts signed by leads from the show.  Combined with your figures on buying power, you could actually go and objectively, yet approximately quantify the value of each lead.



Compile a “after show analysis” report with all these numbers, of course presented in a comprehensive way with ample use of compelling graphics and useful interpretation.

This will make for your most influential sales tool for the next edition of your event.  And provides you a touch point to help your under-performing exhibitors do better next time.

The most important metrics to track the relevance of your trade show

Organizing trade shows is bringing, at a specific time and in a specific place, an entire industry’s demand-and-supply together and providing full opportunity to meet and network.supply-demand-direction-sign

But how do you make sure you covered the entire industry in your show’s exhibitor offer ?  Because that’s where you differentiate from the competition : relevance !  You’ll fool a man/woman once, but not twice.  If you’re missing key players or you don’t cover all aspects and solutions of the industry for which you claim the trade show was intended, you’re visitor retention rate will drop sharply.  Visitors expect you to show them new and innovative solutions in the industry.

Two steps to achieve insights

1. Make a good overview of the show’s industry in terms of product groups and subgroups.  Include everything you can find and then select what you must offer on the show.  This list is often referred to as the “show taxonomy”.  Then start categorizing your potential exhibitors in the taxonomy.  Company x has products and solutions in this field, and this field and this one.  You can use online resources or each company’s individual website to check as many boxes as possible.  Sublevel categories inherent checks from the levels above.  Each checked box is an opportunity to sell a participation and provides you great CRM intel.

To make a workable listing, you could use the 10/10/10-rule allowing for 10 items in 3 levels of depth, and eliminate 1 level.  So you get the 10/10-rule which at maximum will give you 100 product categories.

Source company details from dependable data sources in each group and subgroup of your show taxonomy, join all data, deduplicate and import into your CRM-solution.  Dependable data sources include the major data providers like Dun & Bradstreet, Bisnode, and others but also trade organizations.  Almost any industry has one or more and they all have members and useful data on them.

2. Categorize your companies in terms of their importance to the industry.  This one has nothing to do with your categorization of clients, you can use a different one for that.

In this case the ABC-listings assign an ‘A’ to top notch, really important, big, innovative industry leaders.  But also for visionairies on the rise in a specific product category.  ‘B’ is for good representative and established companies, ‘C’ stands for the bulk of companies in this industry.  Ideally you would attach ABC-categories to a company for each product group of your show taxonomy they’re represented in.abc-inventory-system-300x216


Now you can start tracking your relevance.  Each signed exhibitor fits in a category and has an ABC-listing assigned.  Analyze how well you’re doing in terms of :

  • global representation of ABC-companies on the show in comparison to market reality
  • global representation of companies in each taxonomy category in comparison to market reality
  • specific representation of ABC-companies in each taxonomy category in comparison to market reality

Integrate these metrics in your weekly sales reports and KPI’s to track the health of your show, not just how many square meters you sold and your targets.  Act upon those metrics if major players are missing or you have under-representation in one or more taxonomy categories, especially if they’re top level categories.  It allows you to assign your sales efforts and priorities  intelligently.  Next edition you can use the metrics as KPI improvement targets.

Of course relevancy also comes from a excellent, coherent, interactive and educational side program with lectures, workshops and get-togethers featuring thought leaders in the industry as speaker or chairman or discussion moderator.  But having a relevant exhibitor base present at your show, is at least 60% of the work.

Alternatively to the ABC-technique you could also use the Gartner MagicQuadrant-technique and split your customer base into “Leaders”, “Challengers”, “Visionairies” and “Niche Players”.  Or combine both where you play out ABC in terms of financial contribution to the product group’s market gross revenue and MQ for the company’s contextual value.  This approach of course requires more tangible and reliable data on your customers’ and market’s financial figures.

Start with the excellent show taxonomy, using the 10/10-rule.  You can expand on it later on.  You’ll likely be able to just write down and remember who the A companies are in each category.  Any good sales guy should know those or have the listed pinned to his desk anyway.


As said in the introduction, visitors will stop attending your show if it doesn’t offer them a good overview of the industry. And a good overview must include the right, representative mix of big and small, important and niche companies in each product category you’re offering in your show.  Remember that “getting a good industry overview” is one of the top reasons for attending, mentioned in visitor surveys.  If you can’t offer enough players in a certain product category on your show but the market proves you wrong, then you must react.

You can’t keep finding 50% new visitors for every next edition of your show.